Melissa Barrera on the Changes to Sam She Pushed For
Mar 31, 2023
I always want more time at the end of interviews, but especially at the end of interviews with Melissa Barrera. I had the pleasure of having her on Collider Ladies Night in January of 2022 for the release of Scream and every single answer was thoughtful, detailed, and oozing with passion for her craft. A year later, nothing has changed in that respect, but Barrera has experienced a bit of an evolution in terms of the types of projects she finds herself drawn to and the goals she has for herself in the business.
In her latest release, Scream VI, Barrera returns as Samantha Carpenter, the daughter of Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) and one of the survivors of the 2022 Woodsboro massacre. When Chad (Mason Gooding), Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown), and her sister Tara (Jenna Ortega) move to New York City for college, Sam tags along so she can do everything in her power to keep her loved ones safe. That dedication is put to the test when a new Ghostface emerges and threatens to tear the “Core Four” apart.
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Image via Paramount
In celebration of the March 10th release of Scream VI, Barrera took the time to return to Collider Ladies Night and discuss the “big perspective shift” she’s had since the release of Scream 2022.
“From when Scream came out, Scream 2022 in January, then I didn’t work until we started shooting Scream in June. I was busy. I was doing stuff and I was traveling back and forth, and I was doing promo, and I went to Europe and visited my sister. So I was moving, but I wasn’t working and there’s a part of me that gets really sad when I’m not working. So it was a hard half of the year for me, and I was so desperate to work.”
Eventually the work came. First with Scream VI, and then with two smaller productions that sparked that perspective shift, The Collaboration starring Jeremy Pope as Jean-Michel Basquiat and an unannounced project titled Your Monster.
“I did Scream and then I did The Collaboration, and then I just wrapped this other indie movie that I did called Your Monster that hasn’t even been announced yet, but I’m giving you the scoop. It’s this incredible indie movie that was so satisfying to me. And I’ve realized how smaller films are more creatively satisfying in a way because you get a lot more say, and it’s like a real team effort. It’s like basically everyone is kind of sacrificing a lot to do this very low budget thing and make it look good and make it the best that it can be, and having the highest hopes for something knowing that you don’t have the huge back of a studio. I think it makes you hungrier.”
Image via Paramount
Barrera doesn’t just want to book roles in those smaller independent productions; she wants to have the star power to get those types of films off the ground. Here’s how she put it:
“I think in the last year I had a mentality of like, I need to do something big to make a splash and to make a name for myself so that I can green light projects, because it’s a thing in this industry where you’re never a big enough name. Unless you’re one of the top ten famous people in the world, you’re never big enough. And it’s like, really? What else do I have to do? But when I did The Collaboration and Your Monster that are smaller films, it was so wonderful and it was so cathartic, and I felt like I did the best work that I’ve ever done, and I was like, this is actually what I want to do. I just want to do projects that speak to my soul and that stretch me, and it doesn’t matter what size they are because I’m meeting incredibly talented creatives that are up and coming and that I know are gonna be huge, and I get to be with them when they start out. I want to do that. I’m focused on that. I’m finding smaller movies that have roles that are really challenging for me.”
Barrera’s role in Your Monster certainly proved challenging. While discussing how she overcomes actor’s writer’s block — having a tough time accessing a character’s headspace or justifying a choice a character makes — she specifically noted that happening on Your Monster and emphasized what a vital source of support director Caroline Lindy was in powering through those moments of panic.
“If something doesn’t feel honest to me in the moment, I go into a full body block. Like my body and my mind and my heart does not let me continue acting because I know that it will be phony, and it happened a lot to me in this last movie that I did. And thankfully, I had a director that we had a great relationship coming in, a lot of trust, and I told her, ‘This is probably one of the most difficult roles I’ve ever done. It’s so different to anything I’ve ever done, and it’s so different to who I am as Melissa that I’m gonna be trying things out, and sometimes I am gonna need your guidance, but I’m gonna need time to process.’”
Image via Paramount
Moments like that often left Barrera saying, “I can’t do this.” However, while those situations can seem daunting and like insurmountable challenges at the time, Barrera insists that when you come out the other side, that’s often where the real magic lies. She continued:
“It’s usually after those little blips of panic that I have that the real breakthrough comes, and that’s when I feel the most satisfied with scenes because I feel my whole body working through it and trying to find the honesty in it. I don’t like saying things like saying a line and not meaning it. And sometimes acting is like that. You have to kind of just do things that you’re asked to do. But I protect myself, I feel like. Because I’ve had in the past done things where I’m like, ‘Oh, that was a bad take. I’m sure they’re not gonna use it,’ and then they use it. So I think that’s my defense mechanism of just going into full body block of like, ‘I’m not gonna act if I don’t feel like I’m being truthful. I’m not gonna do it.’ And then I just need to take a breather. I need to talk it through. And sometimes the director’s like, ‘What is it?’ And I’m like, ‘I’m trying to do what you want me to do, but I’m trying to find the way that feels right for me to get there, and I just need a beat.’ That’s been happening to me a lot lately.”
There’s nothing more valuable than having supportive and collaborative filmmakers who value your voice and input at your back at times like that, and that’s exactly what she had on Scream VI as well. After shifting the focus of the conversation to the new Scream installment, Barrera admitted she had some concerns for her character after reading the very first draft of the Scream VI screenplay. She explained:
“So the script changed a lot from the first script that I got to the movie that we made. It was, I want to say, completely different. And we had a few sit downs, [directors] Matt [Bettinelli-Olpin] and Tyler [Gillett] and I, and then with [screenwriters] Jamie [Vanderbilt] and Guy [Busick] because I really, really wanted to make sure that we explored Sam’s psyche more and we got to know her deeply because that was a reason that I wanted to play Sam in the first place. The reason that I was attracted to her in Scream 5 was like, ‘Oh my god, there’s so much potential here. Where is she going to go?’ And I wanted to make sure that in the sixth movie, we saw more layers to her. It wasn’t just the tough girl, the protective older sister that has all these walls up. I was like, ‘What happens when those walls break down?’ And we didn’t get a chance to see that in the fifth one, so I was like, ‘I want to make sure that she feels like a more real, well-rounded human. All these things, all these relationships and everything that happened to her in the fifth one, how are we going to explore that?’ And I think the thing about Matt and Tyler being so great is that when I first spoke to them after reading the first draft, I was like, ‘These are my concerns and I really want the audiences to get to know Sam more,’ you know?”
It isn’t easy joining a popular franchise in a fifth installment, especially as a character who’s the daughter of an original Ghostface who’s seeing visions of her dead series killer dad. Barrera knew the fans had deep attachments to the legacy characters and that it was going to be a challenge to live up to those expectations, but she was determined to do it and was able to do it with Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett’s support. She continued:
“The fans are already in love with so many characters that you need to give them a lot and open up a lot to them for them to let you in, and I really wanted that, and they were 100% on board. And they also wanted that for all the characters. They wanted those quiet moments, they wanted the Core Four to have these intimate beats of friendship and of getting a glimpse of these four people that went through enormous trauma and how they’re all dealing with it in their own way. Having a heart, because the fifth movie felt like — in a way, in the Scream franchise, the first four movies are incredible and Wes had his thing and his vision of Scream, and in the fifth one, that is the first one without him, we had the essence of Scream, but I also feel like there was a lot of heart. It was a very emotional movie, which is rare in Scream, and I think that that’s beautiful. That’s what attracts me to projects, the heart, the emotionality because that’s what I connect with personally, so I wanted to keep that going in the sixth movie. And I think that’s what Guy and Jamie do so well, and they did, and I’m so happy with the movie that we shot.”
Looking for more from Barrera on her experiences between the release of Scream and Scream VI including the making of yet another upcoming release, Carmen with Paul Mescal? You can find just that in her episode of Collider Ladies Night at the top of this article!
You can listen to the full 27-minute conversation uncut in podcast form below:
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